The Volunteer Fire Companies
The Austin Fire Department was organized on September 25, 1857, as Hook and Ladder Fire Company Number 1.
John Bremond, Sr., a prominent merchant, was the founding member of the fire department. While living in New York and Pennsylvania, Bremond was a member of the local volunteer fire departments, and was about the only person in Austin who knew anything about the formation, equipping, and drilling of a fire company.
As Austin expanded geographically and grew in population, the volunteer fire companies naturally followed suit. Colorado Fire Company Number 2 organized in May 1871.
In 1874, Central Engine Company Number 3 organized, but disbanded in 1877. Following the separation of Central Number 3, Protection Hook and Ladder Company Number 3 organized in May 1878 and retained the number three.
Hope Hook and Ladder Company Number 2 organized in 1875, but disbanded in 1882.
Another short-lived fire company was Juvenile Hook and Ladder Number 4, which organized in 1880 and consisted of members under eighteen years old. As these boys turned into men and joined the adult fire companies, Juvenile Hook and Ladder Number 4 ultimately dissolved, although their first fire is mentioned as being the 1881 Capitol Building Fire.
In February 1886, East Austin Fire Company Number 4 incorporated as a fire company.
South Austin Fire Company Number 5 organized in March 1895 and remained the only fire station south of the Colorado River until Station 11 was built in the late 1940s.
North Austin Fire Company Number 6 organized in August 1896 to protect the expansion of areas north of Austin.
In the late 1800s Indians and stagecoach bandits occupied the land west of Austin, but by the turn of the century Austin citizens began developing neighborhoods west of Shoal Creek. West Austin Fire Company Number 7 began protecting the citizens from the destruction of fire in February 1905.
By 1908, East Austin Number 4, located at East 10th and Lydia Street, was the only fire company on the east side of town, but in the era of horse-drawn fire trucks this was inadequate protection for the expanding Holly Street neighborhood. In 1908 this area was called the Tenth Ward, as a result the Tenth Ward Fire Company Number 8 was organized.
The last company to organize during the volunteer era (1857-1916) was Rescue Hose Company Number 9 in 1913.
In 1912 the fire department purchased its first motorized fire truck leading to the end of two eras of firefighting in Austin, horse drawn fire apparatus and the volunteer firefighter. In May of 1916 the citizens of Austin voted to create an all paid, career fire department. On June 1, 1916 27 firemen, including Chief Clarence Woodward, ushered in a new era of firefighting in Austin, Texas.